India Approves Signing of High Seas Biodiversity Agreement

In a landmark decision, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved India’s signing of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Agreement. This significant step aims to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, often referred to as the ‘High Seas’. The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will spearhead the implementation of the BBNJ Agreement in India.

Dr. Jitendra Singh, Honourable Minister of State for the MoES, stated, “India remains committed to the global cause of environmental conservation and sustainable development. We will be signing the BBNJ Agreement and are hopeful of ratifying it through the necessary legislative processes.” He emphasized the government’s dedication to scientific progress, international collaboration, and promoting governance and transparency.

The BBNJ Agreement, also known as the ‘High Seas Treaty’, is an international treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It addresses growing concerns over the long-term protection of marine biodiversity in the high seas. The agreement sets mechanisms for the sustainable use of marine biological diversity through international cooperation, ensuring fair and equitable sharing of benefits without exercising sovereign rights over marine resources. It promotes an ecosystem-centric approach, using traditional and scientific knowledge to minimize impacts on the marine environment and conducting environmental impact assessments. 

This agreement contributes to achieving several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG14 (Life Below Water).

Dr. M. Ravichandran, Secretary of MoES, highlighted the benefits for India, stating, “The BBNJ Agreement allows us to enhance our strategic presence in areas beyond our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It will further strengthen our marine conservation efforts, open avenues for scientific research, capacity building, and technology transfer, benefiting the entire humankind.”

The BBNJ Agreement will be the third implementation agreement under UNCLOS, following the 1994 Part XI Implementation Agreement and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. UNCLOS, adopted in 1982 and in force since 1994, is crucial for environmental protection, maritime boundaries, and dispute resolution. The BBNJ Agreement, agreed upon in March 2023, will become a legally binding treaty 120 days after the 60th ratification. As of June 2024, 91 countries have signed the agreement, with eight parties having ratified it.

This decision marks a significant commitment by India towards global marine conservation, ensuring the health and resilience of our oceans.

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